Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Why Does City Hall Need To Pay Consultants $44,000 In Order To Fine People For Using Too Much Water?

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Even the most bland and unadventurous Sierra Madre City Council meeting agendas are going to have at least one absurd and unexplainable item on them. It is inevitable, even in the middle of Summer. Here is how one especially wise and knowledgeable Tattler reader put this into words last Sunday:

At this Tuesday night's city council meeting, agenda item #6, the staff will recommend that almost $44,000.00 be spent to have the water budget (target) for each of the 3,800 water customers in the city recalculated by outside companies, SRI/Raftelis. A formula based on lot size, number of people, hardscape and lawn/plant areas, pool, and house size will be used instead of the 2013 base level currently being used. 

In the test cases the new formula always came up with a lower target, even for the water customers who were at the lowest usage levels in the city.

There may be some justification for the city reevaluation of the target levels for each customer, but why do we have to spend nearly $44,000.00 to do this. Also, be ready for water rate increases. After all of our target levels are lowered and we cut our water use down even more the Water Department's revenue will go down, so they will have to raise the rates to make up for the lost revenue. 

Something is wrong with this picture.

Of course, we all remember those Raftelis fellows from the most recent "water rate increase process." Raftelis Financial Consultants, Inc. being the company that built a case for water rate hikes in 2013 that the City Council found compelling enough to eagerly pass.

When you consider that Nancy Walsh was the Mayor at that time, and Josh Moran was there as well, you can see that there really was a burning need for skilled professional advice. Raftelis came up with the political and logistic ammo they needed, a Prop 218 challenge failed, and now water rates seem to be going up every couple of months. Like cuckoo clockwork.

There is a catch, however. Here is how I described the hiring of Ratelis Financial Consultants for the purpose of raising water rates back in June of 2013.


You see that? The entire water rate consultation deal back in 2013 cost $48,000. This for a huge series of water rate hikes designed to somehow pull the so-called "water enterprise" out of its financial death spiral.

Now the solons running City Hall are asking the City Council for some additional water consultant cash. They need it to pay nearly $44,000 for a couple of things, including hiring Raftelis all over again. Or at least someone very much like them. The reason this time being to advise City Hall on how to properly establish the process for fining residents who use too much water.

That total amount, of course, is very close what City Hall paid Raftelis two years ago for clues on how to raise water rates in a way that would avoid too much community calamity. So does this mean City Hall figures that this nearly $44K amount is a wise investment because they'll be raking in so much more in additional water revenue through fines?

Can it be the city believes they'll be pulling in the same levels of extra money from water use abuse fining that they did from 2013's serial water rate hikes? Is there some kind of a established scale or metrics here based on recommended resident water cost returns for money invested in consultants?

Let's turn to the Staff Report for this particular agenda item and see if any sense whatsoever can be found there.


So why would a city government that consistently complains about being broke, and therefore desperately needs to raise utility taxes, spend an additional $44,000 on consultants if they didn't see an opportunity for financial gain? After all, our City Hall claim that it needs to recoup money on everything it spends.

So why so much? Especially now? Is figuring out acceptable individual water use levels and fines really all that difficult?

One other thing

For the item dealing with the certification of the "Final Environmental Impact Report" for the General Plan update, the following can be found in the staff report:


Why would the city want to delay its historic survey? And why hasn't it already been done? Or, as one commenter put it this morning:


Apparently some people want us to be.

sierramadretattler.blogspot.com

53 comments:

  1. it is none of the city's d--n business how many people live in my house. This is just more big brother tactics. Let the city keep the tax payers $44,000. And use it to keep the library open.

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    1. not to mention we've got moronic simpleton management - same management that charged the Mt Wilson Trail Race for 700 staff hours for pre-event planning

      so, why would I expect any level of competence from them? too much trouble to think -hire a consultant

      pass the blame - hire a consultant

      waste money - hire a consultant - remember the downtown consultant who got paid $ 40,000 and named streets wrong in the report and only suggestion was to angle the parking spaces and narrow them to add a few spots?

      most of these consultants are just spitting out information they gather and present as their own

      why am I not surprised at the waste from our city manager?

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  2. I think a better use of that $44,000 would be for the additional salary needed to hire a new Director of Public Works.

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  3. Let's see. The $44k consultant will cut targets and raise water revenue across the board. The city's increased and tiered rate structure has only a superficial tether to water cost that no one can afford to litigate. That's it for me. I'm voting to kill the uut.

    Ps: why doesn't this counsel bring back the DSP while they're at it

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  4. There are some really good smart well-intentioned people who work at the CIty, but sometimes I'm pretty sure the collective City is just a blobulous monster with no brain for reasoning. Shaking head in amazement that some things happen (spend $44K on this?) that no one person really ever seems to support but somehow these things keep happening and "amazing" us citizens.

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  5. The only solutions considered valid by city hall come with a big fat pricetag. Making due with the resources available is unheard of.

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  6. Escape goat pay, that's all this is about. Staff could figure out a fair and just cost for raising more money but by hiring an outside company they don't have to justify anything, they can just say the consulting co. fgured it out and their the professionals. What degrees does this co. have that we in the city don't have? We don't need to pay city workers more money to figure this out, we need to hire smarter people to work for the city.

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    1. remember how this city manager spun us known misinformation about the UUT?

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  7. 5:31 there are better educated people who will take these jobs for less $$$, probably at the unemployment line.

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  8. Did the City put out a Request for Proposal?
    If not, why not?

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    1. City Hall is in a big rush. The UUT just dropped down to 8% and they're scrambling to make up the difference with water use fines.

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    2. Another instance where residents are being forced to pay for the rope city hall intends to hang them with.

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    3. This is scary. If water fines are being driven by city hall money grabbing, then everybody is going to get hit!

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  9. Nobody at the City can make a simple math calculation of a fine?
    So they spend $44,000+ too get someone to show them how the math works?
    What is the Council doing to rid us of these incompetent fools?

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  10. Is staff trying to kill the historic survey, or further delay final adoption of the General Plan? I guess both.

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    1. Maybe a certain unquiet spirit from up Canyon way has been leaning on staff about historic surveys. Kind of a second career for that dude.

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    2. Ridiculous straw man arguments put up against the survey.
      It's a survey. What are we, Arcadia?

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    3. I think the whole city should be zoned historical. That would put an end to bad development for ever.

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    4. 9:48, yes! It's a great idea - and it makes our value go through the roof!

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    5. Then you'd have to get an ok as to what color you can paint your house. I'll pass.

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  11. Give me a break. I'm tired of people making decisions who don't even live or know our community or problems. We have more than enough BRAIN TRUST right here in Sierra Madre to handle such matters. There are many reasons I can think of why city hall would not want such a committee and one of them is they wouldn't get the recommendations that city hall wants. What ever the reasons may be how about we start with a survey of what other cities have done and what is workin and fair to all. This isn't that complicated unless someone wants to make it so. I'll do the job and have an answer for you in 10 days for $10,000. :)

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  12. This billing could generate a lot of lawsuits for the city. Let's hope they get it right without making a lot of work for the attorneys.

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    1. We need to make a list of all the consultant driven revenue enhancing measures the city has put into place in the name of avoiding lawsuits.

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    2. That will take a lot of paper.

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  13. we need a consultant for the consultant

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  14. Many of these consultant type things are driven by state rules and regulations. That being said, not all of them are necessary. $100,000.00 for some kind of tank for the water department-but we still have leaky pipes and the city boasts about how many they found and fixed in a day. Should have been doing it all along. Then the police chief wants a new car, he gets it. I want a new car,too. But we're told the city has no money. The historic survey can be done by volunteers. Learn from past mistakes and don't make it mandatory that they file. Just put the city on notice that these homes are protected. The council wants a UUT with no sunset. Really? That's open sesame to no end of hikes. This all comes from the city manager. I don't think citizens realize what a powerful position she holds. Several of the council members use her for their own agendas like helping her pander to the unions. The police contract was supposed to be renewed, have we heard anything about it? Unfortunately, not enough people care. We need n outside, independent forensic audit for the city. Not a firm that they choose.

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  15. As always, it is about the money.

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    1. Rule #1:
      It's always about the money.

      Rule #2:
      If you don't think it's about the money, read Rule #1.

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    2. But they do work hard at it!

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    3. She works hard for the money!

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  16. Hey Locals, Taylors is having a customer appreciateion day this Saturday, 11-3. You know the food will be delicious! Free too.

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    1. Taylors 1 - Farmers Market 0

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  17. Bruce Inman's water quality strategies have basically failed. This despite the expenditure of huge amounts of money. And he is unaware that people are complaining about the decreased water quality with the coming of the warmer summer months. Clueless.

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    1. The City Council has lost faith in Bruce's abilities to deal with the yellow water issue. He is in trouble.

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    2. Bruce's spiel tonight was particularly lackluster. In terms of words, he said plenty. In terms of meaningful words, not a peep.

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    3. Harabedian called him out on the yellow water problem. Bruce said he has heard no complaints. The City Council members disagreed because they have. Bruce looked out of touch and incompetent.

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    4. Bruce, here is a complaint. Yesterday my water took on an odd taste. This morning it had floating sediment. That is now gone though bad taste remains. What's goin on?

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  18. My question about the new city website is whether or not the search engine will work. The last one was a disaster.

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  19. This here gentleman consultant is going to go through the the EIR process for us. This should be highly uninformative.

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  20. First Higgins, now Jerry Pierson. Somebody has a problem with the General Plan.

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    1. They just got smacked down. Nothing was hidden. Father Conspiracy Theory can now go back to the drawing board.

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  21. General Plan Update just passed! Yay! It took six long years. Thanks to Chairperson Denise Delmar who was so instrumental in achieving this monumental task despite the former hostile City Council.

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    1. I agree 9:11!
      Delmar overcame many obstacles, and always with a sense of humor. Denise rocks.

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    2. It was an incredible victory against incredible odds. Remember Nancy Walsh's "We can take you out" rant? In the end it was Nancy who took herself out, and the people of Sierra Madre won.

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    3. Just in case anyone hasn't seen it, it's a classic. Walsh is lying so much she comes off as crazy.

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    4. As an attempt to stop the General Plan Nancy's speech from hell was a huge failure. She made the General Plan Committee into heroes.

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  22. I think we also need to offer some congratulations to MaryAnn MacGillivray. She nurtured this project at a time when she was up against Buchanan, Mosca, Walsh and Moran. She won tonight as well.

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  23. Inman is out of touch.

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  24. Sorry Bruce, but I don't want to spend $1,000 on a "smart" meter that will tell you about how my family uses water.

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  25. The City has to conserve water at a higher rate than most, because the citizens in general suck up a lot of water per capita than most cities in California. The City will be getting fined heavily if they do not meet the state mandate on water conservation, which will cost them much more than whatever they pay a consultant to target your irrigable area measurements. How are they supposed to bill its citizens fairly unless they know the actual landscape area? The old method of "an average number based on parcel size" is no longer tolerable. We are in a drought. And it is not fair to tell everyone they have to conserve the same %. This only hurts the ones that are already doing a good job of conserving water while telling the water wasters to "waste less". Therefore, the City is doing a great job of trying to solve the problem of avoiding heavy monthly fines (which will require passing them down to us customers) while making it fair for everyone based on the actual irrigable areas on their property. So the neighbor with no turf will not get as much water allocation as you if you have a lot of turf. So everyone pays according to their specific need, and Mr. No-turf does not get the same share of water. Providing us with the higher needs, the water we need - WITHOUT penalizing us for using what we need. Unfortunately, the firms being recommended have a proven track record of failure. And with proven alternatives available at half the cost to us taxpayers (yes I have researched), the City is making a huge mistake with its choice of Raftelis and SRI.

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